This House Is Clean…We Think

As Ellen noted last week, the Rowdy Crowd was the site of a hacking incident that – among other things – shut us down for about 10 days.  I’m pleased to report that after days of diligent scrubbing, the house elves report that all of the offending links and defacements have been removed.  We lost about six months of content and had to manually edit a couple hundred additional posts to remove ersatz links to a spam farm.

We have great faith in the house elves since…to paraphrase Pogo…they is us, BUT there’s a chance we might have missed a couple.  So, if you see a weird link to something that says “financialtime” or an embedded link that looks out of place, don’t click on it.  Drop us a note and we’ll dispatch an incident team to the site immediately.

The good news is that – if there are any links – they’re almost certainly in old posts that no one in their right minds would visit.  New posts – from mid-June on – we’re pretty confident are clean.

Thank you for your attention and that you for flying SRC airlines.

– Austin


Another Stool at the Bar…

Or is “another stoolie behind bars” a better analogy?

Damned if I know.  I’m still trying to get my head around it being 2010.  According to the science fiction future historical timeline, this was the year in which Dave Bowman comes back to terraform Jupiter’s Europa, there are colonies on the Moon and Mars and everyone has a nano-scaled tech implanted in their heads to augment their wetware.  Instead, we’ve got Glenn Beck, ride sharing with the Russians to the International Space Station and the iPhone.  Somehow, I feel short-changed.

But, I digress.  As usual.

My actual purpose in writing today was to introduce a new member of the Crowd, Brian Lambert.  Observant visitors will note the appearance of his “gravatar” on the left side of the page or  may have read of his imminent arrival in David Brauer’s MinnPost column over the holidays.

Mr. Lambert is one-man media band with  gigs ranging from MinnPost, where he’s one of the authors of the Daily Glean, to blogging at the Rake and MPLS/St. Paul magazine, yakking on KTLK-FM and writing for the Pioneer Press where I first met him as a media critic. Starting next week, he’ll be co-hosting a 7-9 PM show on FM107, aka “The Chick Station.”  He’s probably done more stuff I’m forgetting, but I’ll leave it to him to embroider as he sees fit.

I’m not sure when his first post will appear or the topics he’ll be writing about (not surprising since I don’t know these things about myself), but I almost always find Mr. Lambert’s musings interesting, insightful, entertaining and fun.  He’s also enjoyably snarky and gossipy about the local media scene when the spirit moves him.  In short, he’s a fine addition to our group, especially since he promised to buy the first round for everyone who makes it to our next meatspace gathering. This alone sets him apart from the rest of us.


– Austin

Photo credit:  Dick Kraus.  “Brian Lambert helps his dad shovel a heavy snowfall from the steps of their rented house in South Huntington in 1996″certified payroll nice

Question From the Management

rorschach1On a good day, the SRC records hundreds – and ocassionally thousands – of page views (we’re at 186 so far this morning; last week our high water mark was 430).  Many come from the regulars who have frequented the place long enough to have nameplates on their bar stools.  Similarly, we get lots of visits from people following links from other sites, particularly those that travel in our loose world of communications, politics, opininating, etc.  We also get a fair number of people who find us via search engines looking for specific words.

In this last category, I have been puzzled over the last week to watch the word “rorschach” become the most popular search term in the history of our blog.  Ever.

This started about two weeks after I posted a very short, not terribly interesting, piece about the movie Watchmen and some dialogue spoken by the character Rorschach.  The March 9th post originally generated a little traffic and then on the 22nd, zoom!


In less than a week, “rorschach” has eclipsed all other search terms on our site.  As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

All of the recent traffic is coming from search engines, enough to easily make this trivial little post the most viewed one on our site almost every day over the past week.  Interestingly, though, I can’t backtrace the connection; when I look for “rorschach” on Google (or Yahoo or Ask) I can’t find us.  I’m not entirely clear who’s visiting and why and who dropped them off.  I don’t mind, but I am curious.

So, first a greeting to our pop-in visitors:  “Thanks for coming, lots of room at the bar, some nice tables in back if you’re interested.  Here’s a menu and your server will be around in a minute.”

Next, a question:  “What brings you into our saloon, stranger?  We’re a full-service establishment – if you get my meaning – but we like to know a little bit about our clientele and what they’re looking for.”

– Austin

“Think Blue” – A True Story of One Man’s Obsession

On Thursday afternoon over the lunch hour two young women were observed on Nicollet Mall passing out small cellophane packages, each stickered with this blog’s address and containing a blue silicone bracelet embossed with “Think Blue – 11/04/08.” In the course of about 15 minutes the two passed out more than 200 bracelets and then vanished into the crowd.

Was it a bit of political street theater to promote unity among Democrats?

A shameless promotion of this blog?

A counterpoint to the GOP operatives who were set up in the Crystal Court of the IDS Center soliciting volunteers for the upcoming convention?

Yes, yes and yes. But…like everything in my life, how those two women came to be at that spot with those bracelets is a story that once again illustrates why my wife’s signature is required for any checks over $200 and why my mother used to send notes to my friends asking them to remind me to wear shoes.

I’ll make it brief.

Continue reading ““Think Blue” – A True Story of One Man’s Obsession”

Giving the People What They Want…

Like any blogger, I’m completely indifferent to the statistics generated by you, our loyal readers. I never look at the page view counts more than 10 times a day and I doubt anyone would say my fixation on incoming links meets the clinical definition of an OCD disorder. OK, maybe a couple of psychiatrists, but we all know what they’re like.

As a result, it was something of an eye-opener today when I pulled up a list of the search terms that most frequently bring new readers to our digital doorstep. These are the phrases entered into various search engines that produce links to various SRC posts.

Here are the top 5:

#5: Looking for Harry Chapin. Turns out 15.7 percent of our new visitors come to us looking for the lyrics and/or the cultural significance of the late Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In the Cradle” that was part of the balladeer’s 1974 Verities & Balderdash. I used a line from this song (“When you coming home, dad, I don’t know when“) in a post last year and we’ve been creating serendipities ever since. As a public service, for those of you still looking for the lyrics so that you can do maudlin karaoke after too many beers, you can find them here. I speak from personal experience on this point, having once spent a drunken evening singing duets with a guy who is now a federal judge (one of many reasons he didn’t tell the FBI about me I suspect).

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Harry, who died too soon in 1981, I highly recommend his Greatest Stories Live album. Don’t get the iTunes version as it has only half the songs on the original album for some reason.

#4: Looking for you. About 16.4 percent of those visiting us from the search engines are looking for our readers and commentators and are Google-stalking you through your posts on the blog. Thank you, one and all, you class up the joint. Please keep posting unless you’re in the Witness Protection Program.

#3: Looking for us. Maybe. 17.4 percent of search-engine visitors are looking for “The Same Rowdy Crowd” or one of the Gang of Eight (or whatever we are) who author this madhouse.

Of course, there’s a distinct possibility that they’re actually looking for the song we stole our name from – “Sharon” – or the singer/songwriter David Bromberg. Lyric-hunters click here for the singalong.

“Sharon” has a special place in my heart as it was part of the soundtrack of my first freshman year in college. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t clicked with much of his other music. That said, I recently discovered a wonderful album, Live From Bonnaroo 2007: David Bromberg & Angel Band, that I highly recommend. It has a nice version of “Sharon,” but a truly amazing rendition of “Driving Wheel” as well. I can only find it on iTunes, but it may be available elsewhere.

#2: Looking for the news of the day. Fully 23.7 percent of you come looking for the news of the day or commentary thereon as evidenced by the mishmash of keyword searches for things like “worst speeches” and “Al Franken.” This is gratifying as it’s one of the reasons we started this thing in the first place (I’m sure it was in the top 20 reasons). I suspect a few people who found us this way have stuck around to become regular readers and contributors. Again, thank you one and all.

And the #1 reason people come looking for us…

#1: Porn. Yes, it turns out the SRC is just another portal to the giant global porn machine.

Specifically, nearly 27 percent of our search engine visitors are looking for “striptease news” or some variation thereof.

How’s that one-handed typing working for you? Personally, I find it hard to work the shift key (“ba-bump” goes the first pun).

I’m guessing those of you so inclined (there’s #2) are looking for the either the soft-core Tease News out of Australia or the harder (yep, that’s 3) Naked News. We pop up (there’s another one…<rimshot> ) on these searches because Benidt posted last year a commentary on one of local station’s use of “teasers” to keep viewers from tuning away entitled “News Strip Tease.”

The man’s a freakin’ genius.

Naked News is subscription-based so no way am I sharing my user name and password (though you can find some samples on YouTube if you’re truly interested), but as part of the SRC’s commitment to giving our viewers the programming they’re telling us they want, here’s a sample from Tease News:

You have to give the anchors and correspondents their due; they manage to multi-task their newsreading and their disrobing pretty gracefully. This is, I suspect, harder than it looks (completing a punning superfecta).

– Austin invoices templates fine

You Go to Hell, I’m Going to Hawaii

I’m back long enough to grab a few things, put the house on the market and leave a forwarding address for the kids when they come home from college. I left the back door open; you’re welcome to anything you want to scavenge.

I talked to the bartender at the Grand Wailea – a lot – and he says they’re always looking for “older guys” to work at the hotel because we’re “too old to steal and too scared to lie.” I’ve also got a line on an apartment sublet. If that doesn’t work, I can always sleep rough on the beach.

So long suckers, as my friend Danny Cohen used to say, I’m out of here.

– Austin irs debt kind

Long Live Free Speech

My friend Tom Kelly is in the thick of the riots in Belgrade over the declared independence of Kosovo. Tom is a local PR flack who is serving his nation and mankind by teaching democracy to recovering Communists in Serbia, via the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded (USAID) National Democratic Institute (NDI). Today, Tom emailed me this headline from his local paper.      


The Serbians seem to be getting the hang of this whole free speech thing.

– Loveland   event marketing kind

First Post From Princeton

The group has gathered and for the first hour or so we played with clay.  Literally.  What fun!  If you haven’t squeezed a lump of clay since high school, you owe it to yourself to try it.

Chad and Michelle, our hosts, have very nicely opened their home to a range of bloggers from hard right to hard left.   After the first hour, the discussion has really kicked in and it is a wonderful dialog.  Gives you hope that there’s not an unbridgeable void between people who see the world differently.

More later, but first reports are very encouraging.

– Austin

“When You Coming Home, Dad, I Don’t Know When, But We’ll Get Together Then”

NOTE: This started out as an explanation to all three of my relatives who read this blog and profess – to my face anyway – to care, where I’ve been and why I haven’t posted a word in something like 45 days. Instead, it turned into a stream-of-consciousness ramble that takes forever to make the point (“I’m sorry, I was busy.”). Readers interested in the most economical reading experience can hit “Next” now.

Hi, my name is Jon and I’m a workaholic.

Actually, I must not have hit bottom yet because I truly don’t think of myself in those terms. Unfortunately, though, in recent weeks my wife, my kids, my neighbors, my clients and a good chunk of my friends have all found ways – big and small – to let me know that they have a slightly different impression:

“Do you think you’re ever going to eat dinner with us again?”

“Why do you guys leave your lights on all night long?”

“What happened to your exercise thing?”

“Did you really send that e-mail at 3:17 AM?”

“Are you ever going to post anything to the #$%*$@! blog that you said we should start?”

“Dad, why are bringing your laptop into the movie?”

OK, the last one is an exaggeration, but I admit that I have thought about it (“If I sit in the last row…”). And besides, I have done enough e-mail in the Southdale AMC via BlackBerry that I’m trying to convince my accountant that part of my ticket to Fantastic 4 (the midnight show) is a business expense.

I actually think I’m about as lazy a person as I know. I never met a nap I didn’t like and my favorite position is reclined. As my wife will attest, I can step over something on the stairs, ignore a burnt-out lightbulb or a load of laundry for weeks. My ideal day is modeled around those of my pets who seem to lounge about for about 20 hours out of every 24 and rouse themselves for food, play and to be petted. That works for me.

Unfortunately, my actions don’t always support my rhetoric or my wishes. Since starting my own business last year, my average work week has gone from about 45-50 to 65-75 ( I know there are people who claim to work 100-hour weeks, but I can’t quite see how it’s humanly possible). My favorite ironic moment each day usually arrives about 2:30 am in the morning when the infomercial for “start your own business over the Internet” runs and the 50-something guy stands in front of his lakefront house, speedboat, Jag and his teen squeeze Brandy (who must buy her outfits at “Strip n’ Shop”) says,

“The money’s great and I love the lifestyle.”


Of course, they never actually explain what it is my new Internet-based business would do (“buying and selling” is as close as they get) nor what my three easy payments of $49.98 get me besides a bunch of DVDs (probably with more infomercials on them) and a bunch of books with somebody’s”best secrets for making money” so who knows, maybe it can work. Maybe it’s a recruiting infomercial for drug dealers culled from the ranks of the currently unemployed. It cheers me to no end to realize that – based on the type of programming that runs in the small hours of the night – I’m part of a demographic that is unemployed, overweight, in debt, has tax problems and may be considering joining the military (I hear they just extended the maximum age for signing up to 42 so – if trends continue – my time may yet come).

Truthfully, starting a business is hard work as far as I can tell. Blessedly, I haven’t had to work too hard at finding work (one of the advantages of specializing in “bad shit” as we say in the business), but there’s a real short food chain in my organization and my ability to delegate consists mostly of leaving notes for myself (“Jon, I need you to do…”) that I find later and can curse at (“Doesn’t that asshole know I’m already working on…”). You also miss the ability to tap resources that you take for granted (one day, for example, I had to wrap a 30-page memo to a client (Go head, insert your favorite one-liner here) like a present because I had no rubber bands or paper clips (Insert next one-liner here; this sentence is a two-fer).

As a result of this and my near-pathological fear of saying, “No” to a client call (“What if the phone stops and it never rings again?”), I find that I’m mostly either working or – worse – thinking about working. I’ve started keeping a damned list (I apologize to all you anal-retentives I’ve teased over the years on this point; all your base are belong to us), I have two BlackBerries (insert third one-liner, preferably something about how your pair are bigger), I’m thinking of buying one of those car desks traveling salesmen use and I have a couch next to my desk that I sleep on more than sit on.

Apparently, though, I’m not alone. Many of us, it seems, are working longer hours, working away from the office, taking work on vacation, multitasking while driving, parenting, having sex. While I can’t find the link any more, CNN recently asserted that Americans on average work more than medieval peasants. In poking around the web for context related to this post I discovered the whole “Americans work more than…” debate is packed with politics with some seeing it as a sign of our myopic greed or our struggle under the heavy boot of big capitalism and others seeing it as an example of all-American values and ethics.

I choose not to politicize it. I like working, I like the money I earn for my family, I like the tax code that makes it easy for people to start businesses (and yes, buy gadgets). I like my clients. If, however, I should win the lottery, find I have a childless rich uncle (or a friend, hint, hint) or ever get a knock on the door from Ryan Seacrest (the Ed McMahon of the 21st century) and the folks at Publisher’s Clearinghouse, you’re welcome to pick my office clean because I won’t be back for it. I am not one of those guys who’d say, “I’ll probably just keep my job.” At this point, I think this is my best – my only – remaining argument that I’m not a workaholic.

I have some confidence on this point: The best thing I’ve ever done in my work life is the six months between NWA and Fleishman Hillard when I didn’t work. I could have done it for years. To those who say, “Nah, you’d be bored, you’d go crazy” I say, “Try me.”

And, just in case one of those longshots comes in, I’ll be somewhere along Hanalei Bay.


Ladies Who Lunch

Four of the five SRC contributors got together for lunch today to remind each other that we are more than just e-mail addresses.  After concluding that some of us are actually better as e-mail addresses, we had a generally useful conversation about what we want this forum to be.  After lunch and before we all fell asleep, we decided it might be good to ask you, our small but growing audience, what you’d like to see more of, less of, different of.  Judging strictly by numbers, you like politics, but what else?

– Austin, Benidt, Carideo and Loveland

Blah, Blah, Blog

I hate blogs. Self-centered., self-righteous, self-reinforcing, and self-promotional. self-gratification. Seldom right, but never in doubt. I’ve never posted on one, and only read when forced by a friend or client.

So why did I agreed to do this? They bought me beer. Lots of it.

I guess I do need a primal scream about the state of the world, and this is cheaper than a therapist. Anyway, it’s not like anyone is actually going to read it.

So, there. Now I officially blog. But I’m not a blogger. Those guys are freaks. I guess I’ll start by sucking up to a reporter who actually did his job. Probably the single least challenged assertion in American politics is “tax cuts create jobs.” The Star Tribune’s Dave Hage did a nice job busting the grandest myth of American politics.

So now I’m sure every time a politician makes this baseless assertion, he or she will be confronted by newly enlightened reporters armed with the data from this article.

Some blog should really track that.

– Joe Loveland